Taste & See

08/01/2023 02:13 AM By Lisa Anderson
Christy Cruz and Tiffany Lopez
Christy Cruz & Tiffany Lopez
Story by Taylor Strickland • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Taste & See

Best Friends Pursue Their Baking Passion

Two best friends, Christy Cruz and Tiffany Lopez, are taking the baking world by storm with Baked & Co. Celebrating one year of delicious scones, muffins, and unique dumplings, they share the sweet (and savory) tales of their entrepreneurial journey, all while cherishing their faith, friendship, and shared dreams.

There are few foundations stronger than a friendship based on faith and shared dreams.

Christy Cruz and Tiffany Lopez are the owners of Baked & Co., a popular new bakery that specializes in baked goods, such as specialty scones, muffins, and miniature pie-like treats called dumplings. August will mark the one-year anniversary of embarking on this journey together, and the two friends have much to share about what they learned along the way.

A Shared Dream

Despite possessing different personalities, Christy and Tiffany share very similar backgrounds. Both women are from the Midwest and had families that were very involved in local ministry, a considerable factor to the unique synergy the friends have built up over the years.

Christy has been a professional baker for over 10 years. Most of her work prior to opening Baked & Co. involved custom cake decorating, which she professes to be more than happy to have left behind.

“I wanted to have more control over what I made,” Christy explains. She especially wanted to focus more on baked goods, which are her true passion, and jokingly shares her plans on becoming the most accomplished scone baker in the area.

Even though cake decorating is not really Christy’s thing anymore, Baked & Co. still takes cake orders and even offers single cake slices, as well as trendy “cakes in a jar,” which are miniature confections layered inside of a little Mason jar.

Christy always dreamed of opening her own bakery, one day, but said she was initially unsure how to go about doing it herself. That’s where Tiffany came into the picture.

“Before, I could only do so much,” Christy says. “I could only go so far with just me.”

Tiffany has always been employed in the medical field but has been more drawn to the business administration and operations management side of the field.

“That’s really my strong suit and my skillset,” Tiffany says. “I like numbers. I like figuring out problems.”

In addition to enjoying the art of business processes, Tiffany has always enjoyed baking. She had long fantasized about opening her own café.

Though Christy and Tiffany have been friends for nearly 16 years, it wasn’t until a fateful day in 2022 that both realized the secret dreams they fostered were one in the same.
Christy Cruz and Tiffany Lopez
Baked & Co. goods

Just Do It

Christy and Tiffany were having a hangout session at Christy’s house when Tiffany first broached the idea of opening a bakery together. “I said, ‘Let’s just do it,’” Tiffany recalls. Baked & Co. was at its first market, called Teak Lane Makers Market, just four weeks later.

Christy does most of the actual baking for the bakery, whereas Tiffany handles the business side of things. Tiffany says she can follow a recipe but has no great talent for it the way Christy does.

“She is definitely a phenomenal baker,” Tiffany says of Christy. “I do believe God gifts us with things, and that’s definitely her gift.”

Christy says her creativity and skill shine the most with the cookie subscription box the bakery offers. She often experiments with new flavors such as coquito, a traditional Christmas drink that originated in Puerto Rico. 

When it comes to inspiration, Christy is most influenced by her family. Christy’s favorite item on the menu is dumplings, an idea that originated from her grandmother and mother. 

Christy praises Tiffany for being a deft communicator in addition to being a skilled business operations manager. Tiffany is especially good at marketing on social media, according to Christy. “God definitely uses her and gifts her through writing,” Christy says.

The bakery has grown at a much more rapid pace than either Christy or Tiffany had originally anticipated. Christy even quit her part-time job to accommodate all the orders, while still preparing for the Ocala Downtown Market they now frequent on the first and third Saturday of every month.

Given Baked & Co.’s increasing popularity, Christy and Tiffany’s families often pitch in to lighten the load. According to both friends, their respective husbands are very supportive of the bakery. Both men, collectively referred to as “the husbands,” spend many a market day handing out samples and directing people to the Baked & Co. booth.

“They dream bigger than we dream,” Christy laughs. “But now, we’re catching up.”

Christy says she would like the bakery to eventually expand beyond just Ocala, but right now, she and Tiffany are focused on opening a brick-and-mortar store first. They hope it will happen sometime in the coming year.


It’s About Friendship

Faith is a big part of the vision Christy and Tiffany have for Baked & Co., as is family and the friendship the two women share.

“One of our taglines is ‘taste and see,’” Christy says. She wants to remind people about where food comes from and to appreciate the food they’re given.

Tiffany said the goal of Baked & Co. is to enable anyone who thinks of the bakery to associate it with the warmth of home, whatever that word means to them, and feel welcome.

“The table is always a place of vulnerability for people, because we all have a need to be fed,” Tiffany explains. “Our mission is to capture that moment of vulnerability with kindness and warmth.”

Christy and Tiffany feel lucky to have found each other. Tiffany also affirms that they’ve managed to avoid the conflict that is usually associated with going into business with a close friend.

“It’s kind of learning our professional communication styles and remembering to always give the benefit of the doubt,” Tiffany says. “I’m never going to purposefully try and hurt her, and she’s never going to purposefully say something to upset me.”

Tiffany acknowledges that there are times when tension could manifest into something worse, as they are both busy full-time wives and mothers. Christy says they often circumvent misunderstandings or complicated emotions by simply calling to check in with each other.

“When we started this, we did say, ‘Our friendship is always going to come first,’” Tiffany says. “If Baked & Co. packed up and closed the doors, our friendship is always going to come first.”

Christy says she and Tiffany are entering all new territory, so they’re trying to move forward cautiously and be intentional when balancing business and friendship.

Baked & Co. is Tiffany’s evening job, and she considers it a nice reprieve. “It doesn’t feel like work to me,” she says.

After a lifetime of baking by personal request or underneath someone else, Christy has come to believe that ownership makes the difference in making the work enjoyable.
Learn More

Baked & Co. can be found at Ocala Downtown Market every first and third Saturday at 403 Southeast Osceola Ave. Fresh deliveries are made every week to the Workspace Collective at Fort King, which are available to the public for purchase. Pre-orders can be made at bakedandcofl.com, and regular updates are provided on the official Baked & Co. Instagram.

See the full interview on YouTube @localapodcast or listen on your favorite podcast app on August 25, 2023.

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Lisa Anderson